How candidates manage a campaign gives voters a window into how they would operate as president. Last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren swiftly fired a high-ranking staffer for “inappropriate behavior,” while giving no further explanation. Give the Massachusetts Democrat credit for decisiveness and for taking misconduct seriously. But the secretiveness is troubling, and undercuts her calls for transparency in Washington.
According to Warren’s campaign, “multiple complaints” about Richard McDaniel were received over the past two weeks. A law firm was immediately hired to investigate. McDaniel, who was Warren’s national organizing director and one of the most senior black aides in her campaign, was let go after the investigation showed that “his reported conduct was inconsistent with [the campaign’s] values and that he could not be a part of the campaign moving forward.”
The campaign refuses to elaborate on the nature or source of the complaints, clarify exactly what constituted McDaniel’s “inappropriate behavior,” or release the outside legal counsel’s findings. Sources familiar with the McDaniel investigation revealed only that no reports of sexual assault or rape were involved, but said they couldn’t release more details.
It’s not completely analogous, but in 2015, when Senator Bernie Sanders fired a staffer for improperly accessing confidential Hillary Clinton campaign information, the campaign was more open about what happened.
McDaniel’s job was to develop the structure of Warren’s field operations. He had previously worked for the Clinton campaign as primary states regional director, and for Senator Doug Jones, in 2017, as field and political director during Jones’s upset win in Alabama. In a statement, McDaniel told Politico, which broke the news of his dismissal, that he “would never intentionally engage in any behavior inconsistent with the campaign or my own values. If others feel that I have, I understand it is important to listen even when you disagree.”
All of that is awfully vague, and could describe anything from an honest mistake to dirty tricks against an opponent. Warren ought to level with voters — and not just to stay consistent with the values she represents. The ethics of presidential campaigns are under more scrutiny after 2016, when Donald Trump’s campaign communicated with a foreign government and made use of exposed personal data. To be absolutely clear, there’s no reason to believe McDaniel did anything like that. But presidents, and would-be presidents, shouldn’t keep the public in the dark: If a top official does something bad enough to get them fired, it’s something bad enough to disclose.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misidentified the state that elected Doug Jones to the Senate.